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Real Salt Lake grabs 3 points from the Portland Timbers

By Michael Orr

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 11:50 p.m. MDT

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 31: Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake kicks the winning goal in stoppage time against the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field on March 31, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images

PORTLAND, Ore. — Real Salt Lake scored two goals in the game's dying moments Saturday night to escape Jeld-Wen Field with three points in a 3-2 win against the Portland Timbers. Substitute Jonny Steele equalized in the 89th minute and Kyle Beckerman got the dramatic winner late in injury time to overcome a Darlington Nagbe brace in Portland.

Having controlled possession through the first quarter-hour, Salt Lake was tested midway through the half. Nick Rimando made a leaping save on an Eric Alexander shot in the 22nd minute before cutting out a dangerous Rodney Wallace cross just a minute later.

Just before the half-hour, Salt Lake got back into offensive action as Alvaro Saborio nearly got his head to a terrific Tony Beltran cross, before Troy Perkins punched the ball away at the last moment. Returning to the starting XI, Saborio was a welcome addition for the visitors. "It gave us a big boost the way Sabo fights up top. It was great to get him 90 minutes," Beckerman explained.

The visitors were lucky not to concede in the 32nd minute when Diego Chara played Jorge Peralza into the box on a quick counter attack. The Colombian forward rounded Rimando but could only hit the side net. Perlaza appeared to be offside but with the flag down, a goal would have given the Timbers the opener.

Instead, Salt Lake used a Wallace handball in defending a Grabavoy run into the box to set up a Saborio penalty in the 39th minute and dramatically shift momentum. The Costa Rican striker wrong-footed Perkins and easily slotted his first goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.

Nagbe leveled the score in the 48th minute, beating Rimando to the near post with a blistering, low shot. Any plans of sitting back and holding the 1-0 lead disappeared in the Timbers Army's green smoke as Salt Lake fired back immediately.

Beckerman's slaloming run on the next possession nearly gave Salt Lake the lead again but his crafty sequence ended with the ball in the side net. Salt Lake came even closer in the 52nd minute when Saborio was played through by Morales but saw his shot ricochet off the far post.

With the pace ever quickening, Portland was denied a second goal when Rimando made a wonderful reaction save on Nagbe's blast from 15 yards in the 57th minute. Yet Nagbe gave Portland a stunning advantage in the 66th minute when he volleyed a goal similar to his 2011 Goal of the Year, beating Rimando to the top right corner.

Despite falling behind, RSL manager Jason Kreis was pleased with his team's response. "We kept a pretty even keel and stayed really positive," he said. "That's all I can ask for right now."

In the hopes of reinvigorating the attack, Kreis inserted Fabian Espindola in the 70th minute. The prolific striker's presence was quickly impactful and ultimately gave Salt Lake the key assist.

Rimando kept out a Franck Songo'o header in the 81st minute to give the visitors 10 minutes to find a goal and a point in Portland. It was substitute Jonny Steele who broke through for Salt Lake, creatively finding space in the box before patiently beating Perkins to the lower left corner in the 89th minute. Said Kreis of the equalizer, "I was very pleased that he has the calm and collectiveness to take that finish because it was really nice."

Moments later, Beckerman finished off the Timbers with a volley of his own deep in injury time. "[Espindola] chipped a great ball to me, I told Jonny to leave it and I just hit it," said a smiling Beckerman. "I think we would have been happy with a tie but we were fortunate to come out with a win."

Even with the dramatics fresh in mind, Kreis refused to get carried away with the rebound victory for Salt Lake, particularly with another game coming mid-week in Montreal. "We're not going to pat ourselves on the back too much about getting a win here just as we didn't criticize ourselves too much after we lost last week," he said quietly.

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